5 Best Drum Heads for Rock – Buying Guide and Reviews

One of the most overlooked keys to creating a powerfully driven rock sound is the choice of drum heads. Many drummers stick with the ones that came with their drum kit.
Big mistake. There is a whole world of aftermarket drum heads that you should be taking advantage of.

At a Glance: Our Choice Of The 5 Best Drum Heads For Rock

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Buyer's Tips: What to look for when buying a drum head for rock

  • Decide whether you want a single or double ply drumhead. Single ply heads are brighter, more responsive and have a better ‘snap’, but they’re also more susceptible to breaking under a serious beating. Double ply often have a depth of tone that works well for rock and metal in particular.
  • Your drumhead choice isn’t a single item, be prepared to experiment with different combinations of batters AND resonance. Replacing one can give you a wildly different sound to somebody else's recommendation if they aren’t the same.
  • Muffling is important too! You’ll need to know to what degree you want your sound muffled, as using your muffling equipment with new double-ply drumheads might over shoot the mark.

For a more in depth guide, take a look here:


Now that we’ve considered a few aspects of how drum heads work, let’s take a look at some actual heads and what separates the best from the rest.​

5 Best Drum Heads For Rock 

Ok let's look at each product in more detail. To make things easier for you, we've added pros and cons for each one, as well as a video demonstration so you can see them in action. So without further ado, let’s take a look...

1. Evans Onyx 16 Inch Batters

Evans Onyx Drum Head, 16 Inch

These edgy looking drum heads are best used with toms. They’re 2-ply batter heads with a unique frosted coating that not only gives it the beautiful black colouring, but also improves the depth and quality of the sound.

  • Very durable, holding up for extremely long periods of time even under aggressive Keith Moon-style playing
  • Strong aesthetic qualities lends itself well to the rock genre
  • Easy to fit and tune thanks to Evans’ Level 360 design
  • Although they’re supposed to work with snares, they don’t deliver quite as well when used in this capacity
  • The black coating can dampen the sound too much
  • The sustain is one of this drum head’s weakest aspects, sacrificing it for a clean attack

Let's take a look at this product...

2. Remo Controlled Sound 14-Inch

Remo Controlled Sound Coated Drum Head with Reverse Black Dot - 14 Inch

Highly prized for their versatility, Remo Controlled Sound are among the best drum heads for rock music snares. They’re single-ply, but are capable of holding up to a more intense beating than many other 1-ply drum heads.

  • A central dot in this drumhead is extra thick, allowing you to create the kind of deep focused beats needed for harder rock styles whilst also having the responsiveness for lighter work in the outer region
  • Even compared to other heavy-duty drum heads, these stand out as being exceptionally tough
  • Thanks to the combination of durability and low price, these can be an excellent way to reduce your expenses as a drummer
  • They can struggle to control the overtones and excessive ringing when the outer area is used
  • If you need a muffled snare, even the central spot offers only moderate dampening at best
  • If you’re going to need to deal with extremely heavy playing (looking at you, death metal drummers!) then you would be better off going for a 2-ply in the long run.

Let's take a look at this product...

3. Aquarian VEL14 (Editor's Choice)

Aquarian Drumheads Drumhead Pack VEL14

Even the wildest rock drummer would find it hard to put a dent in this. It uses two extra thick 7mil plies and a reinforcing dot, so feel free to write the most aggressive, demonic, intimidating beats you can think of whilst using these. They work best on snares, but can also be used for toms.

  • Unsurpassed strength means these will likely be the last drum heads you ever need for a snare beater
  • Available in white or black coatings depending on your preferences
  • The thickness and strength make a very focused sound that drive your music very well through any size venue
  • They’re slightly more expensive than other drum heads, but since you won’t need to replace them as often as others it balances out the cost
  • Resonance is somewhat limited
  • They take a steady hand to tune perfectly

Let's take a look at this product...

4. Remo Emperor Coated Drum Head (Budget Choice)

Remo Emperor Coated Drum Head - 14 Inch

Equally applicable as a head for toms or snares, this is a 7 mil double ply, 14 inch batter head with a very forgiving nature, making it an excellent first upgrade for a rock drummer looking to increase the quality of their kit.

  • Tuning is quite easy, and you don’t need to have the precision of robot to get a great sound
  • The coating gives a warmer tone, which helps to improve toms and also toughens the drum head to make it suitable for heavy-hitting snare duty
  • It’s quite cheap for such a durable drum head, making it a great money saver in the long run
  • The coating isn’t immune to wearing off, and will be quicker to do so when tightly tuned
  • The attack can be too sharp, so if you need strong sustain and resonance it can eat into these
  • When the coating does eventually wear off, it drastically changes the sound of this drum head, but you might not notice the difference until it’s too late if you’re not an experienced drummer

5. Remo Ambassador Coated Drum Head

Remo Ambassador Coated Drum Head - 14 Inch

Long considered an industry standard, they are 10 mil single ply drum heads that are extremely versatile, and perform very well in heavy rock genres as batter heads.

  • If you like to take inspiration from other styles of music, the flexibility that you gain from this drum head makes it easier to include unusual influences without worrying about adjusting or replacing your drum heads
  • The bright and powerful ‘snap’ of this head gives it a broad appeal, and is one of its biggest strengths
  • The coating is of a high quality, being highly resistant to erosion
  • As a single-ply, it lacks some of the focusing and muffling that double-ply or dotted drum heads have that is particularly well suited to rock
  • It can be hard to reduce the ringing of these drumheads to the optimum level
  • In order to get the most snap out of these, you’ll need to break them in a little in order to tune them extra tight

Let's take a look at this product...

So Which Are The Best Drum Heads for Rock?

Generally speaking, the best drum heads for rock will use a double-ply in order to hold up under the most intense playing. For this reason the Aquarian VEL14 stands out, thanks its extreme strength that doesn’t rely on a coating that can be worn down. These design elements also help to create a very warm and focussed tone that fits the genre well and can also breathe some extra life into your toms as well as being an excellent choice for snare batters.

Unfortunately we don’t have unlimited space to consider all of the batter/resonance combinations, so let your fellow drummers know what kind of set up you’ve found works best in the comments!

Featured image source: Ewan ToppingCC BY 2.0

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